- Parcel delivery giant UPS, vaccine alliance Gavi, robotics company Zipline and the government of Rwanda are partnering to deliver vital medications and blood via drone to the country's western region, according to a press release by UPS.
- Rwanda's lengthy rainy season makes last-mile delivery and temperature-controlled storage near impossible in the country, forcing many to die without access to medication. The last-mile problem is common throughout the developing world which lacks supply chain infrastructure in many rural zones.
- To correct this, the program partners offer emergency transfusion deliveries by drone within 30 minutes of being requested. The partnership is the first national use of drones for medical deliveries in the world.
Drone technology and robotics are often touted as a solution for last-mile delivery inefficiencies given their aerial and mapping capabilities, but the expansion of drones as a national medical technology shows the delivery potential of the hardly regulated devices.
Where companies may have previously been limited seasonally by lack of road or storage infrastructure, drones can arrive by air from a centralized location. If a 3PL in a foreign country were to use drones for e-commerce deliveries, sales in the developing world could increase, although price premiums remain in question.
Rwanda's use of drones for medical deliveries should be closely watched as a case study for the technology's resilience and efficacy in these cases, and if proven, could be the first in a new era of technology for last-mile services.